My clients span many different industries and represent many different levels within their organizations. In dealing with them, I always try to observe the traits and characteristics that seem to stand out. One leader may be extremely articulate and able to define a complex issue with a simple summary that gets right to the heart of the matter. Another is exceptionally enthusiastic and passionate and gains engagement and participation easily through the power of influence. One factor that I’ve seen frequently in successful people is the characteristic of resiliency, or “bounce back ability.” The ability to keep on persevering when others quit and to “get up and brush yourself off” even when knocked down repeatedly.
What does it take to be resilient? First, you need to stay away from making judgements about the outcomes you produce. Resilient people don’t categorize results as successes versus failures as much as others do. They take a very realistic approach to outcomes, without drama. When they fall short, they look at the circumstances and evaluate what could have been done, without deciding that they are a “failure,” berating themselves or bemoaning the bad things that have befallen them.
They take the same approach when they succeed. They don’t spend a lot of time congratulating themselves. Instead they break down what happened, what went right, what could have been better…and then they move on. It’s more about the circumstances that the outcome creates and acting on those circumstances, than it is about judging their personal impact on them. It allows them to juggle the ability to evaluate what happened while continuing to address “what do we need to do now.” They don’t waste time handwringing and thinking about what “could have been.” Instead they maintain a clear minded approach to what IS.
Because of their non-judgmental response to outcomes, these leaders have a greater ability to overcome obstacles and stay flexible than those people who don’t bounce back as easily. Once again, obstacles are just seen as part of the process, rather than impenetrable barriers that can’t be overcome.
Another characteristic of resilient people is that they are always interested in growing and getting better. Because they don’t judge themselves, they are less likely to hold themselves back. The path they are on is one of continuous improvement, with the perspective that this learning is a lifelong journey. Many studies show that this can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. If an individual remains open and curious, they can continue to grow in character and personal strength throughout their lifetime.
Many resilient people also have the capability of delaying gratification. They can wait out circumstances that may be less favorable in the hopes of a better outcome. This provides the space to allow for existing processes to kick in. Because of their patience, they can truly see the results of a long-term commitment.
Finally – and this may be the driving factor for all the other characteristics – they are usually very focused on a significant purpose. This provides them the ability to focus on something greater than themselves, creating a driving force and significant personal motivation. This unseen internal drive allows them to “get out of their own way” and maintain the energy, devotion, and the belief that they can reach their objective and achieve what they want.
The good news is that everyone can learn to be more resilient. By reducing how we judge outcomes, staying flexible, maintaining an open mind to keep learning and growing, and focusing on a deep sense of meaningful purpose, everyone can get better at achieving the objectives that are truly important to them.